Has five syllables in all
This haiku is cake
To like, or not to like
Every so often, I come across a movie I know I shouldn’t like. For reasons ranging from “it’s dumb” (Hot Tub Time Machine. Loved it!) to “this is for girls” (Mean Girls. Fetch!), these movies simply should not register on my personal viewing radar. It vexes me how I could love Dodgeball yet find Chinatown as dull as brown mustard.
Serendipity is such a film. I didn’t love it per se, but I enjoyed it – and man, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.
Let’s start with the title: Serendipity. It means “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” The movie bases itself on its title as literally as possible, and this is one of those situations where I literally meant to use the word literally. John (John Cusack) meets Sarah (Kate Beckinsale) by chance at a department store and they enjoy a whimsical night together in snowy New York.
Unfortunately for John, Sarah is an absolute nutcase who believes everything is decided by fate. Even though fate tries as hard as possible on this particular night to entwine the two in eternal love, Sarah departs when John can’t ascend to the proper floor of a hotel in time (they stepped into separate elevators and decided to randomly press a button; if they ended up on the same floor, they were meant to be together. She picks 23, he picks 23, but various impediments keep him from making it there. Which begs the question: why did the movie even make him pick 23 in the first place?) Eventually, they meet up again, and he writes his name and number on a $5 bill and she does the same on a used copy of “Love In The Time Of Cholera.” If either of them comes across these items again, it means they were meant to be together. In essence, they have to achieve serendipity. WHY DID I LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fast forward a few years later. John and Sarah have been apart for a while, though John keeps looking for that book (which defeats the purpose of fate, right? Right?) He’s about to get married, as is Sarah, but as the day approaches he keeps seeings signs. In a stupendous act of Not Loving The Woman He’s About To Marry, he sets out on another quest to find Sarah. She’s not happy with her oboe-playing celebrity husband (what?) so she does the same.
Look, this is getting long-winded, but eventually all the signs point to them getting together and they do. Why? Because they each found the $5 dollar bill and the copy of the book ON THE SAME DAY. In John’s case, the book was given to him as a wedding gift BY HIS FIANCEE.
And all of this is happening based on A FEW HOURS these two STRANGERS spent on SOME RANDOM NIGHT FIVE YEARS AGO. Oh, did I mention they met near Sarah’s favorite shop, which just happened to be named SERENDIPITY?
I can’t get too angry, because the movie makes no attempts to dissuade you from thinking this is all ridiculous. Again, the name of the movie is Serendipity. Everything that happens literally centers around the actual definition of serendipity. It’s almost like a fairy tale.
David, I thought you said you liked this movie
Yes, I did. I just had to point out all the ludicrous plotting first. That being said, I applaud the film for sticking to its guns with Gorilla Glue. It took a ridiculous concept and played it out as much as it possibly could, without reservations. You can’t help but appreciate a movie that knows how absurd it is.
And it worked.
One thing this movie has going for it is that you’re not entirely sure whether John and Sarah will be getting together. It’s a romantic comedy, and the two are about to make out on the movie poster, but in the back of your mind you keep thinking, “maybe they weren’t actually meant to be.” Which would be heartbreaking, because I would have just spent 90 minutes of my life watching two whackos chase omnipotent signs across New York with no payoff whatsoever. But its the subtle specter of failure that keeps you watching.
As with most rom-coms, I was rooting for the two lovebirds to finally nest together. There was a happy ending. Hooray! It was contrived and silly, and most of all foolish if only for the fact that the entire hunt is based on literally a few random hours together on a random night. But hey, I guess fate just had that in store for them.
Jeremy Piven: He plays John’s brother, Dean. I’m mentioning this because every time I see Jeremy Piven in a movie, I can’t help but recall this:
One of the funnier characters in Rush Hour 2, another movie that I hate myself for loving irrationally.
A quote that could have only been uttered in the year 2001, when this movie was released:
Dean: “Kids your age. Pimple-faced college drop outs who have made unhealthy sums of money forming internet companies that create no concrete products, provide no viable services, and still manage to generate profits for all of its lazy day-trading son-of-a bitch shareholders. Meanwhile, as a tortured member of the disenfranchised proletariat, you find some altruistic need to protect these digital plantation-owners?”
Sappiness Rating: ∞/10.
Holy mother of God. This movie was sappy as fuck. The definition of sappy is “excessively sentimental; mawkish.” Forget the old adage, “try stapling water to a tree” – this movie had enough sap to glue water to a gust of wind. The entire experience was watching two lachrymose almost-psychopaths search high and low for impossible signs of divine intimacy. Yes, this kind of took away from the movie. Remember, high sappiness ratings aren’t good in my eyes.
You read the first section. You read the sappiness rating. It seems like I hated this movie. I didn’t.
It was stupid and ridiculous and impossible, and more – but it kept those themes ever-present from start to finish and didn’t shy away from what it was. That much I can approve of. The leads are excellent, too, so that certainly helped. Again, I don’t like that I liked this movie, but I won’t shy away from the fact that I enjoyed it.
UP NEXT: Who knows? I’m past planning ahead. This is getting arduous to the point where I’m choosing movies based on my mood when its time to watch. Tonight could be Sleepless in Seattle or it could be Shallow Ha1. It depends on whether I feel masochistic or if I deem it impossible to put up with crap for another night.